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Call for evidence

Channel crossings, migration and asylum-seeking routes through the EU

Background

People seeking to enter the UK without going through immigration control have been gathering in Calais and along the coast of Northern France since the 1990s. Numbers have fluctuated, but by May 2020 about 1,800 migrants were estimated to be in Calais and Dunkirk. Initially the majority of attempted crossings were by stowing away on vehicles, but increased security has cut this approach and an increasing number are now crossing the Channel in small boats. In 2018 fewer than 500 people were detected entering the UK by small boat; in 2019 1,890; and by June 2020 numbers had exceeded 2,000 for the year to date. These statistics include a growing number of children: Kent County Council reported that in April 2020 they had 450 child migrants in their care compared to 257 in April 2019.

The UK and French governments have introduced several initiatives to stop the traffic. In January 2018 they signed the Treaty of Sandhurst to improve co-operation between the UK and France and invest in security in Northern France, and in January 2019 they agreed a joint action plan between their law enforcement agencies. 

Immigration Enforcement, Border Force, UK police forces, the National Crime Agency and French law enforcement agencies work together to collect intelligence, investigate and prosecute organised immigration crime. The UK-France Coordination and Information Centre in Calais was set up in 2018, and in July 2020 the Home Secretary signed an agreement with her French counterpart to establish a joint intelligence unit in Calais to combat migrant traffickers. In 2019, Immigration Enforcement carried out 404 disruptions against organised crime gangs and individuals related to people smuggling, made 259 arrests and convicted 100 people for people smuggling. In the current year, 21 people smugglers have been jailed as a result of Immigration Enforcement investigations up to 10 July 2020. 

People who are seeking asylum are currently covered by the EU’s Dublin agreement where they should claim asylum in the first EU country they arrive in unless they have family in a different EU country in which case they can apply for family reunion. In 2018, the UK accepted 1,028 transfers on family reunion grounds under the Dublin Regulation. 159 were children joining relatives in the UK. The Regulation will cease to apply in the UK after the Brexit transition period, although a replacement scheme is the subject of negotiation. The UK's Immigration Rules also allow for refugees to be joined in the UK by immediate family members in certain circumstances. 

Terms of Reference for written evidence submissions

Written evidence is invited on the issues set out below – but please note that submissions do not need to address all of these issues:

  • Reasons behind the increase in irregular or illegal channel crossings, including economic and political drivers 
  • Actions taken by French and UK government personnel to reduce the risk to life for migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats 
  • The legal position of migrants crossing the English Channel and the obligations of UK and French authorities and other parties to ensure their safety under UK and International (Maritime) Law 
  • Actions taken by the French and UK governments to identify, apprehend and prosecute criminals involved in the traffic of migrants across the English Channel and determine the financial gains being made from human trafficking
  • Future arrangements for safe, legal routes for family reunion and claiming asylum in the UK, and the effectiveness of current Government initiatives to re-unite families 
  • Conditions in migrant camps in France and other states such as Italy and Greece
  • The care provided for unaccompanied children arriving in the UK. 

Please note that the Committee is not able to consider individual cases or consider any matters that are currently subject to legal proceedings.

If you would like to ask the Committee to accept your submission anonymously (meaning it will be published but without your name), or confidentially (meaning it won't be published at all), please say at the start of your evidence which of these you want to request, and tell us why.  

Submissions should be received by 12 noon on Monday 14 September. The Committee has decided to extend the deadline to 12 noon on Monday 21 September.

Click on the start button below to submit written evidence. 

This call for written evidence has now closed.

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